Power Rankings

Power Rankings after Talladega: Ryan Blaney unanimous No. 1

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After a weekend of racing at Talladega Superspeedway, NBC Sports’ NASCAR Power Rankings look like it went through the spin cycle.

While Ryan Blaney is the unanimous No. 1 following his win in Monday’s Cup race, 18 drivers received votes this week and there were four ties.

Drivers who received votes last week who didn’t this week include: Kyle Busch, Harrison Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Briscoe and Austin Dillon.

Here is this week’s power rankings:

1. Ryan Blaney (30 points): Blaney is no longer the winless outsider at Team Penske this year. He edged Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the victory and his seventh top-five finish in the last eight races. Last week: Tied for first

2). Denny Hamlin (27 points): Hamlin followed up his Miami win with a fourth-place finish after he had to rebound from going a lap down early due to a cut tire. Has three top fives in the last four races. Last week: Fourth

3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (14 points): Earned a stage win and scored his third top-five finish of the season. He already has three times as many top-five finishes this season as he did last year. Last week: Unranked

(tie) 4. Alex Bowman (12 points): Finished second in Stage 1, led 12 laps and placed seventh for his second top 10 in three races. Last week: Unranked

(tie) 4. Aric Almirola: (12 points): His rear bumper crossed the finish line first, but that didn’t keep him from finishing third for his second consecutive top five. He is also tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the most consecutive top 10s at Talladega with eight. Last week: Unranked

6. Kurt Busch (10 points): Wasn’t a frontrunner Monday, but the Chip Ganassi Racing driver finished ninth for his ninth top-10 finish in the last 11 races. Last week: Unranked

7. Chase Elliott (8 points): A poor finish on a superspeedway can’t take away that he’s had five top 10s, including a win, in the last seven races. Last week: Tied for first

(tie) 8. Joey Logano (7 points): Led 33 laps as part of the Team Penske convoy Monday and finished in the top 10 in the opening two stages. Has led 393 laps over the last nine races, but he has only four top 10s in that time. Last week: Unranked

(tie) 8. Brad Keselowski (7 points): Placed in the top 10 in the first two stages before finishing 19th, which snapped a top-10 streak of seven races. Last week: Third

(tie) 10. AJ Allmendinger (6 points): He finished seventh Saturday in the Xfinity race after being part of the Kaulig Racing effort on the last lap that pushed Justin Haley to his first series win. Over his last three races he’s started in the rear each time and won at Atlanta, finished fourth at Miami to claim the Dash 4 Cash bonus and earned a top 10 at Talladega. Last week: Unranked

(tie) 10. Chris Buescher (6 points): Placed sixth for his third top-10 finish of the season. Last week: Unranked

(tie) 10. Erik Jones (6 points): Earned his third top-five finish of the year, all of which have come since NASCAR’s return on May 17. Last week: Unranked

Also receiving votes: Martin Truex Jr. (5 points), Tyler Reddick (4 points), Kevin Harvick (4 points), Justin Haley (4 points), William Byron (2 points) and John Hunter Nemechek (1 point)

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick climbs to No. 1

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Kevin Harvick returned from NASCAR’s COVID-19 hiatus to not only win last weekend at Darlington but also take the No. 1 spot in the NBC Sports Power Rankings.

The rankings are significantly different than when the Cup series was last on track in March. Joey Logano won at Phoenix before racing and all other sports were interrupted by the pandemic.

There are a number of changes in this week’s rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (30 points of 30): A unanimous pick. Dominated Darlington on Sunday and is bringing the same car back for Wednesday night’s race. The field has been warned. Ranking after Phoenix: 2nd.

2. Alex Bowman (24 points): In the first five races, Bowman has one win and came close two other times. Another win is likely on the horizon. Ranking after Phoenix: 9th.

3. Kurt Busch (23 points): Like Harvick, the elder Busch brother didn’t look worse for the wear from the hiatus. Watch out for him in tonight’s return to Darlington. Ranking after Phoenix: tied for 5th.

4. Matt Kenseth (21 points): If he was that good after not having raced for 1 ½ years, imagine how much better he’ll be when he hits full stride in the coming races. Ranking after Phoenix: inactive.

5. Chase Elliott (20 points): Overcame pit road speeding penalty to finish fourth at Darlington for his third consecutive finish of seventh or better. Ranking after Phoenix: 4th.

6. Denny Hamlin (16 points): With three top-10 finishes in the first five races of 2020, including winning the Daytona 500, is it too early to start saying this may finally be Hamlin’s long-awaited championship-winning season? Ranking after Phoenix: unranked.

7. Tyler Reddick (11 points): First time in a Cup car at one of the most challenging tracks in NASCAR and he comes away with a seventh-place finish. Ranking after Phoenix: unranked.

8. John Hunter Nemechek (8 points): Helped guide Front Row Motorsports to its first top-10 finish ever on an intermediate-sized track with a ninth-place finish in his first Cup start at Darlington. Ranking after Phoenix: unranked.

9. Martin Truex Jr. (6 points): Struggled in first two stages but rallied to earn his first top-10 finish of the season. Will he be able to pick up where he left off tonight? Ranking after Phoenix: unranked.

(tie) 10. Kyle Busch (2 points): His 26th-place finish was not indicative of how well he ran for the most part, only to be forced to pit late under green. Ranking after Phoenix: 3rd.

(tie) 10. Erik Jones (2 points): What is it about Darlington that Jones does so well there? Four starts = one win, another top five and two other top-10 finishes. Will he be able to add to that string tonight? Ranking after Phoenix: unranked.

(tie) 10. Ryan Newman (2 points): That he raced again, let alone finished 15th, just three months after his horrific crash at Daytona is nothing short of a miracle. Ranking after Phoenix: was recovering from injuries suffered at Daytona.

Others receiving votes: None

Virtual Power Rankings: Timmy Hill, William Byron are 1-2

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Timmy Hill is atop this week’s virtual NASCAR Power Rankings after the first three races of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series.

In balloting by NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers, Hill missed being a unanimous pick for the top spot by one point. That’s also the margin that separated Hill from No. 2 William Byron.

Others of note include Garrett Smithley (4th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (7th) and Kyle Busch (9th).

This week’s rankings will have to hold you for a little while: there’s no racing this weekend due to the Easter and Passover holidays.

This week’s rankings:

1. Timmy Hill (29 points): Three top-three finishes, including a win, has given him more notoriety than he has had at any time in his career.

2. William Byron (28 points): He built his career on a strong iRacing foundation and it’s clear he hasn’t lost his feel or touch. He’s led the most laps in the first three races, including a win at Bristol.

3. Denny Hamlin (22 points): Has one of the most realistic and expensive iRacing rigs. The defending Daytona 500 winner also won at virtual Homestead and was fourth at virtual Bristol.

4. Garrett Smithley (21 points): Has finished no lower than ninth in each of the first three virtual races.

5. Ryan Preece (17 points): Has finished no lower than eighth in the first three virtual races, including runner-up at Texas. That’s some mighty fine riding, cowboy.

6. John Hunter Nemechek (13 points): Has made it look easy at times with a runner-up and two top-10 finishes.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (11 points): Junior is back, Junior is back. A longtime iRacing fan/participant, he’s off to a great start with a pair of top-10 finishes, including a runner-up at virtual Homestead.

8. Alex Bowman (7 points): Has two top-10 finishes in first three races. Also has had a number of entertaining posts on social media about his iRacing experience.

9. Kyle Busch (6 points): What’s up with Rowdy? Ranked ninth? To his credit, though, he’s picking up iRacing pretty fast and showing progress.

10. Matt DiBenedetto (5 points): Matty D. has one top five and another top-11 finish. Much like Busch, he’s showing promise.

Others also receiving votes: Parker Kligerman (3 points), Clint Bowyer (3 points).

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Alex Bowman rises to No. 1 after Auto Club win

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Alex Bowman is the big man on the Hendrick Motorsports’ campus, at least for this week, following his win Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

The win also places him at No. 1 on this week’s edition of the NBC Sports Power Rankings. Bowman overthrows Joey Logano, who fell to a four-way tie for sixth.

Thirteen drivers earned votes this week.

Here’s this week’s power rankings:

1. Alex Bowman (38 points out of 40): Dominated Auto Club 400 from start to finish. Was fast in practice and carried it through the race. Last week: 10th

2. Ryan Blaney (32 points): It’s not often someone who has finished outside the top 10 in his last two races is this high in the power rankings, but Blaney’s overall performance through three races is undeniable. The No. 12 team just needs to close the deal. Last week: 3rd

3. Jimmie Johnson (31 points): When you weren’t looking, the seven-time champion posted top-10 finishes in every stage through three races (plus a runner-up in his Daytona 500 qualifying race). Can Johnson carry this momentum to the first race of the season on a flat track? Last week: 9th

4. Kevin Harvick (21 points): Through three races Harvick is the only driver to place in the top 10 in each event. Last week: 2nd

5. Brad Keselowski (20 points): After crashing out of the Daytona 500, Keselowski has posted finishes of seventh and fifth as Team Penske’s strong showing to open the season continues. Last week: unranked

(tie) 6. Chase Elliott (16 points): After winning three stages in the first two races, Elliott finally earned a top-10 finish Sunday when he placed fourth, one of three Chevys in the top five. Last week: 4th

(tie) 6. Kyle Busch (16 points): Finally placed inside the top 10 with his runner-up finish, a result of track position gained on the chaotic final restart of the race. Last week: unranked

(tie) 6. Joey Logano (16 points): Followed up his Las Vegas win with a 12th-place finish. Also placed seventh in Stage 1. Last week: 1st

(tie) 6. Denny Hamlin (16 points): After a less-than-stellar weekend in Las Vegas, the Daytona 500 winner drove his way to a sixth-place finish. Last week: 6th

10. Kurt Busch (9 points): Another driver who earned his first top 10 of the season with his third-place result. Last week: unranked

Others receiving votes: Martin Truex Jr. (five points), Harrison Burton (one point) and Tyler Reddick (one point)

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Joey Logano takes top spot from Denny Hamlin

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Move over Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano is coming through.

By virtue of his win Sunday in Las Vegas, Logano replaces Hamlin atop this week’s NBC Sports Power Rankings.

Eightteen drivers received votes from NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers.

Here’s this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Joey Logano (37 points out of 40): Bounced back from a DNF at Daytona to earn a gifted win at Las Vegas when the top two cars pitted late, allowing Logano to move to the lead and keep it. Last week’s ranking: unranked.

2. Kevin Harvick (34 points): Pitted before final restart, which likely cost him a chance at a top-five finish (he wound up eighth). Still, with top-10 finishes in the first two races (one of only two drivers to do so), Harvick is off to a strong start. Last week: 6th (tied).

3. Ryan Blaney (29 points): Late pit call cost him the win and a top 10 (finished 11th), but maybe there’s some solace in being atop the Cup standings heading to Fontana. Last week: 3rd.

4. Chase Elliott (24 points): Even though he finished 26th at Las Vegas, Elliott led 70 laps and won each of the first two stages. Including Daytona, he’s led nearly 100 laps in first two races. Now all he has to do is finish off a race with a win. Last week: 9th.

5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (17 points): One of the biggest surprises this season. The move to JTG Daugherty Racing is agreeing with him. Led 24 laps at Daytona before late-race wreck and 30 laps at Vegas, finishing third. Definitely someone to keep an eye on. Last week: unranked.

(tie) 6. Denny Hamlin (15 points): After his win at Daytona, struggled through a rough day at Las Vegas, finishing 17th. Last week: 1st

(tie) 6. Kyle Larson (15 points): One of two drivers to finish in the top 10 in each of first two races. Looks to add to one win and two runner-ups in six Cup starts at Fontana on Sunday. Last week: 4th.

8. Matt DiBenedetto (14 points): Earned second-place finish in his second start for Wood Brothers Racing. Could he bring the organization it’s 100th Cup win at Fontana? Last week: unranked.

9. Jimmie Johnson (13 points): Finished fifth at Las Vegas (as well as being fastest in final Cup practice there). Has six career wins at his home track in Fontana. Can he make it seven on Sunday (which would break a 97-race winless streak)? Last week: unranked.

10. Alex Bowman (7 points): Showed some impressive speed late before being shuffled back to 13th place after last caution. Last week: unranked.

Others receiving votes: William Byron (3 points), Bubba Wallace (3 points), Austin Dillon (2 points), Brad Keselowski (2 points), Chris Buescher (2 points), Clint Bowyer (1 point), Chase Briscoe (1 point), Johnny Sauter (1 point).